Madibaz shock champs Ikeys
Port Elizabeth - NMMU's Madibaz have recorded a dramatic 23-21 win over the defending champion UCT Ikey Tigers here on Monday.
Having earlier this year come from behind to beat the Shimlas - in Bloemfontein - they caused the biggest shock in the history of the Varsity Cup (now in its fifth year) by beating the reigning champs.
And the man who did it against Shimlas, goalkicker Bradley Kretzman, was the hero once again - his last-second penalty, which bounced off the crossbar, handing the Madibaz their first-ever Varsity Cup and Monte Taljaard Trophy Match victory over the Men in Blue & White. (Kretzman kicked the winning touchline conversion against the Kovsies in Week Two.)
Both sides scored three tries in a stop-start match, but the final ten minutes made up for things when it came to the drama.
The Madibaz were quick out of the blocks at their home ground, running into a 13-0 lead after scoring two early tries - forcing the visitors to play catch-up rugby for virtually the entire first half.
That said, NMMU could easily have been ahead by more after the opening exchanges, fullback Gerrit Smith having knocked on virtually over the tryline before try-scoring supremo - and captain - Jaco Swanepoel crashed over for the game's opening points in the eighth minute.
Smith missed the conversion, but Swanepoel's try - his fifth of the season - was just reward for some sustained pressure by the Madibaz up till then.
At 0-5 down the defending champions would not have been panicking too much - amazingly, UCT have led from the start just once this season - but the determined home side went into the first strategy break with their tails up even more when vice-captain Quinton Crocker scored their second try.
Crocker took the try-scoring pass from inside centre Howard Mnisi, that after hooker Martin Ferreira had made a superb dash when it looked as if the Madibaz were going to kick a penalty to touch. Instead, they caught the Ikeys napping and ran the ball; Ferreira showing great skill and Mnisi handing the ball to Crocker on the Ikeys' goalline.
Smith converted to make it 13-0 in NMMU's favour and the home side seemed to be growing in confidence - having conceded just one penalty to UCT's ten at that stage. However, that confidence was to be shortlived when Smith - on attack - lost possession just outside UCT's 22. Ikeys fullback Dillon Leyds snapped up the loose ball, stepped inside a defender and straightened - his 60m dash resulting in the visitors' first points.
Flyhalf Nick Holton, a former Grey PE scholar, missed the conversion but he made no mistake on the stroke of half-time with his second conversion attempt of the day - converting centre Tiger Bax's try. The Ikeys got the ball back from a scrum in their own half and they went down the blindside. Left-wing Mark Winter, he of dancing feet, made some good ground before cutting inside and setting up possession in the Madibaz 22. The ball was recycled and Holton held up the ball nicely for Bax to run in virtually unopposed at the uprights.
The second half started positively enough for UCT - who would have been both relieved and happy after drawing level at half-time - but all their good work kept being undone by simple errors.
Both teams, in fact, were guilty of unforced errors in the third quarter - dropped balls and poor options seeing the score unchanged (at 13-13) right up until those final ten minutes when replacement Madibaz flanker Jaco Otto crashed over from a maul to put his side into the lead at 21-13.
The home fans rightly went dilly as Smith slotted the conversion, but UCT - or rather Leyds - acted quickly to equalise. The skilful No 15 exploited the smallest space imaginable down the right-hand touchline and then stepped the last line of defence to dot down for a crucial score. Holton converted and the scores were level - again - at 21-21.
However, there was to be one final twist in the tail...
UCT tried to run a penalty out of their own half and were penalised - one of 19 going against them on the day - and up stepped replacement Kretzman (as he did against Shimlas) from in front, but quite far out, to secure the win; much to the delight of his team-mates. Of course, the ball bouncing off the cross-bar simply added to the drama as Kretzman was swamped by 14 delirious Madibaz players.
The Madibaz have now beaten both the Shimlas and UCT this season and despite losses to NWU-Pukke and UJ (in Round One and Three), they could push for a semi-final place in 2012.
UCT, however, have a very tough task ahead of them if they want to qualify for a fifth consecutive semi-final, with matches against NWU-Pukke (home), Maties (away) and UP-Tuks (home). One more loss would definitely mean the end of their 2012 campaign.
Tries: Swanepoel, Crocker, Otto
Cons: Smith, Kretzman
Tries: Leyds 2, Bax
Cons: Holton 2
NMMU: 15 Gerrit Smith, 14 Mayibuye Ndwandwa, 13 Quinton Crocker (vice-captain), 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anton Verster, 10 Martin du Toit, 9 Charlie Purdon, 8 Jaco Swanepoel (captain), 7 André Goosen, 6 Ulrich Pretorius, 5 Mzwanele Zito, 4 Schalk Oelofse, 3 Dexter Fahey, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Roy Godfrey.
Replacements: 16 Kobus Greeff, 17 Gareth Hartley, 18 Timothy Agaba, 19 Jaco Otto, 20 Marlin Ruiters, 21 Bradley Kretzman, 22 Devon Lailvaux, 23 Phillip Nel.
UCT: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Tiger Bax, 12 Michael Morris, 11 Mark Winter, 10 Nick Holton, 9 Liam Slatem, 8 Rayn Smid, 7 Zandy Macdonald, 6 Ntsolo Setlaba (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Don Armand, 3 Francois van Wyk, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Wes Chetty.
Replacements: 16 Neil Rautenbach, 17 Adriaan Botha, 18 Brad Bosman, 19 Greg Mallett, 20 Ricky Schroeder, 21 Paul Cohen, 22 Nathan Nel, 23 Digby Webb.
Referee: Quinton Immelman
Assistant referees: Christie du Preez, Fumanekile Yamile
TMO: Johann Meuwesen